The time to relax is when you don't have time for it.
- Sydney J. Harris
Stress seems to be everywhere today.
There are major sources of stress, such as a relationship status, a boss who seems to be angry at you, or being in debt.
There are also minor sources of stress, such as receiving an email with a difficult assignment, constant social media notifications, or people who could potentially benefit from going through driver’s education once again.
There’s a turn signal lever. It’s not that hard to use it.
To be fair, it isn’t stress that is everywhere today.
There are stressful triggers that surround us continually.
Sometimes these triggers increase the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone, that is loose in our bodies.
And sometimes we can ignore those triggers.
For those times when ignoring a trigger just isn’t going to happen, there are effective methods available to help you cope with that stress.
Knowing how to relax your mind and body quickly and effectively won’t eliminate stress, but it can help you to handle it more effectively.
Now here’s the best part: you can use any or all of these methods at once.
#1. EFT – highly effective tapping therapy
EFT stands for “Emotional Freedom Techniques.” It’s a method of what could be described as “self-initiated acupuncture without needles.”
With EFT, you take advantage of the several pressure points which exist on the body.
By placing pressure on these points or by tapping on them, you can release the stressful energy that has built up over time.
Before the tapping and pressure on specific points begins, it is necessary to evaluate your total level of distress.
This will help you be able to recognize which points on the body need to be addressed.
Many of the tapping points are along the face, but there are also energy stimulation points under the arm, in the chest, and in the fingers and hands.
Modern science is able to show proof of how EFT positively affects the brain by using computerized EEG imaging. Clinical studies have shown that EFT is over 90% effective and works much faster than traditional therapy.
It is true that EFT may not work for everyone, but it is worth giving it a chance.
When combined with other methods of relaxation, it can be a very effective method of removing stressful emotions and physical symptoms.
#2. Deep Breathing – take a deep breath and relax
Deep breathing is one of the easiest ways to relax and unwind from a stress trigger.
It is also one of the most restorative activities that is available to us.
You can begin to see relaxation benefits with just 5 deep breaths in a row.
As part of the breathing process, try to be mindful about how your body feels and moves while you work on fighting off stress.
Feel the moment that occurs between the ending of your inhale and the beginning of your exhale.
Place a hand on your chest and feel your ribs expand and contract slightly to accommodate the extra air in your lungs.
Find a quiet place if you can. Close your eyes. Then breathe deeply.
By the fifth breath, you’ll discover that there is much less tension in your muscles.
The worries of the day seem to have floated away.
Now you’re ready to tackle your next task.
#3. Music and Sounds
Music is often used as a “distraction” tool.
By listening to music, your mind engages with the frequencies that are being heard and this helps you forget about a stressful situation or feelings for some time.
To be clear, listening to music and sounds will not resolve a stressful situation.
What it can do is help you find the right mindset to be able to cope with the stress that is being experienced.
Any music can and will help you stop focusing on a stress trigger.
None is better than the other, though jazz and classical music can help you focus on a specific task you wish to fulfill to relieve stress.
This is a proven effect. In 1993, Dr. Gordon Shaw of UC-Irvine discovered that college students who listened to Mozart experienced a temporary spike in the IQ. Those who listened to other types of music did not experience this change.
What is interesting about this concept is that listening to Mozart doesn’t actually make you smarter.
By creating the circumstances where the mind can become calm, the music helps you be able to improve your overall intellectual performance.
This method of relaxation becomes especially powerful when additional sounds are added to the melodies and frequencies of music.
Nature sounds create a natural relaxation effect on their own.
That’s why having the sound of the rain hitting a window can cause someone to fall asleep immediately.
Even the sounds of a crackling fire can have a calming effect on the body.
One unique method that incorporates all of the benefits of music and sounds is called “brainwave entrainment.”
This audio option combines white noise, repetitive beats, natural sounds, and specific frequencies to create a natural relaxation response.
Just 30 minutes of listening to music and sounds in some way can be enough to remove stressful feelings and symptoms.
Then you can use another method of relaxation and coping to deal with the actual stress trigger that made you feel tense and worried in the first place.
#4. Physical Exercise
Exercise would cure a guilty conscience.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 70% of people say that they experience stress or anxiety “on a daily basis.”
Most people feel that stress interferes with their lives in some way.
And stress levels are continuing to increase for many.
Staying physically active will not only give you more energy over time, but it will also strengthen your immune system and make you more resilient to the stress hormone cortisol.
Physical exercise helps to limit the feelings of stress because it helps the muscles decrease their total tension levels.
This decrease in tension leads to improved sleep and a boost in self-esteem. Regular exercise is even able to stabilize moods and emotions.
There are many forms of exercise that can help you take advantage of this relaxation effect.
Walking and jogging tend to be the most popular, but physical forms of meditation, house chores, or playing with the kids in the backyard all work as well.
You can hop onto a bicycle and reduce stress or you can use an exercise bike at home.
As long as you are physically active in an aerobic way, you’ll be better equipped to deal with stressful triggers on a regular basis.
Does meditation reduce stress?
Meditation for stress relief is a popular way to get rid of tension, worry, and anxiety.
Just a few minutes of meditation is all that is required to restore a sense of inner peace.
One of the reasons for this is due to the very nature of meditation itself.
Many forms of meditation require the participant to take several deep breaths or to focus on a single point.
These actions naturally reduce the influence of stress on the body because it is being ignored.
Another reason why meditation is so effective is because it allows you to gain a new perspective on the situation that has caused stress in the first place.
You’re able to then build skills that will help you manage that stress more effectively in the future.
According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation also provides the benefits of an increase in self-awareness, a focus on the present, and a reduction in negative emotions.
This method of relaxing the mind and body is so powerful that it may even have physical healing effects.
It can help manage the symptoms of high blood pressure, chronic pain, asthma, and provide better sleep every night.
There are many forms of meditation that are available today that can have a positive influence on your mind and body so that you can relax quickly and effectively.
Here are some of the best options to consider incorporating into your daily routine.
This form of meditation has you repeating a word or phrase continuously.
These words or phrases can be repeated in the mind, whispered out loud, or spoken in a normal tone of voice.
Many religions and spiritual practices incorporate mantra meditation. Saying the rosary is just one example of this.
This form of meditation focuses on an increased awareness of the present environment.
The practitioner is focusing on what their five senses are telling them about every moment they encounter.
This form of Chinese martial arts can also be an effective method of meditation.
Through the use of a series of postures and movements, you incorporate deep breathing to create a physical form of meditating.
This meditation form is almost the same as mantra meditation.
There is just one key exception.
You are given a specific mantra to repeat so that a specific result can be obtained.
This eliminates the pressure of finding a word or phrase to use a mantra, offering an easy way to achieve a deeper state of inner peace.
Relaxation is a natural side effective of this inner peace.
This method also combines physical exercise with the processes of meditation to reduce stress.
You are focused on balance, which creates a single point of concentration, allowing you to focus less on the stress that may be affecting your day.
#6. Remove Facial Tension
Many people carry tension with them every day and don’t realize it.
One of the most common places for tension to build up after a stressful trigger is within the muscles of the jaw.
This tension can spread to the rest of your body if it is not addressed.
It can even affect your emotional balance, switching you over to a state of anger over time.
By removing this facial tension, you can limit the power that stress has on you.
It’s a very effective way to relax your mind and body quickly and effectively.
Try opening your mouth as wide as you can.
Hold it open for about 30 seconds.
Breathe through your nose as deeply as you can.
This will encourage the muscles around the jaw to begin relaxing.
Repeat this process as often as needed throughout the day to stop facial tension from encouraging more stress to flow through your body every day.
When was the last time you just went outside and played?
For many adults, the idea of “play” is one that seems purposeless. Pointless. A waste of time.
Except that when you are playing, you’re not worrying about the stressful events of the day.
You’re focused on having fun and that makes it the perfect opportunity to unwind.
Parents often play with their kids, but what about adults who are on their own?
Is it acceptable to go out to a park and swing on the swings? Or go down the slides?
Sure it is! You can also bring a few friends along, a Frisbee, a ball to play catch, or whatever else you like to do for fun.
Dig in the dirt. Take a walk around a zoo. Get some finger-painting done.
Not only will you be having fun when you make an effort to play, it is an effective way to genuinely relax.
Many times, adults associate play with a night out somewhere.
This might include dinner, a movie, an evening at the pub: social interactions.
This is not the type of playing that is being discussed here.
Going out for a night provides more potential stress triggers.
Will you be able to find a taxi? Will your tickets be honored? How much is this going to cost?
Genuine play eliminates these triggers, even if for only a brief amount of time.
#8. Connect with a Routine
Stress has the ability to kick us out of our normal routines.
It is such a powerful mechanism that it can disrupt an entire day right from the moment you wake up.
If you make the effort to stay connected to your routines, this gives your mind a signal that it is time to look at a day through fresh eyes.
Something simple that you do every day, like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, or calling your mother can do wonders for the stress you’re experiencing.
You can also start a new routine that will help you begin to reduce stress and create relaxation on a regular basis.
One effective method is to include a short nap during the day.
In a standard 8-hour work day, most people begin to feel fatigued by the fifth or sixth hour.
At this point, there is usually an option to take a 15 to 20-minute break. This is the perfect chance to sneak away and get a little extra sleep.
Keep your nap to less than 30 minutes, however, because a longer nap puts you into a deeper stage of sleep.
Waking up from a deeper sleep will likely make you feel tired, which will make you more susceptible to stress.
Many people try to get past this afternoon wall by having a cup of coffee, a caffeinated soda, or even an energy drink.
Stimulants can help you feel more awake, but they also make you physically jittery.
This creates an instability in your mood that can make you more susceptible to stress.
So connect with your routine as often as you can if you’re feeling stressed out. Do something that has meaning to you personally.
Avoid the caffeine and take a nap if you’re feeling tired.
This will help you to relax your mind and body very effectively.
#9. Treat Yourself
Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
This phrase is a variation of the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would do unto yourself.
We often look at this type of statement as an encouragement to treat other people in a better way.
To be kind to others as much as possible.
But what if there is a dual purpose to this type of statement?
What if it is also a reminder that you deserve to treat yourself in a positive way frequently and often as well?
It is easy to focus on work, on the kids, or anything but yourself with the modern demands of life.
If you’re struggling to relax, it might be time to treat yourself like you’re trying to treat everyone else.
So how can you make yourself a priority?
It might be something simple, like going out for breakfast instead of grabbing a granola bar as you dash out the door for the morning commute.
Or take yourself out for a quiet lunch. Go visit a museum that you like. Spend some time at the beach. Go for a walk around your neighborhood.
The options are endless.
You can even play video games for awhile, if that’s your thing.
When you treat yourself well, you’ll be able to treat others better, and this process will also make you more resilient to the stress triggers that are hovering around.
#10. Hide in the Bathroom
You just laughed a little bit, right?
But there’s some truth to this.
We all need a place where we can escape. A place where you can lock the door and get away from whatever happens to be going on.
The bathroom is one of the few places we can do this.
Unless you have kids, of course.
Lock the bathroom door with kids around and they’ll be yelling at you or knocking on that door constantly until you come back out.
Why does hiding out in the bathroom help to relax your mind and body?
Because you are creating a physical barrier between you and your stressful triggers.
With the physical barrier in place, your mind naturally creates an internal barrier to stop a stress trigger from gaining more forward momentum.
Any other room that you can find some time to yourself will also work so you don’t have to hide by the toilet.
Your bedroom, a walk-in closet, a home office: any of these will work as long as you don’t bring any items that have been causing you stress into them.
If you’re at work and you can’t lock the actual bathroom door, find a stall to hide in and lock that door.
The goal here is to create a tangible amount of space that can be personal.
Once you’ve made your escape, give yourself the chance to breathe deeply.
Inhale to the count of 3, then exhale to the count of 3.
Repeat this process about 5 times.
You will feel more relaxed.
There will be more energy available for you to access.
Then just repeat this escape any time you feel the need to get away.
#11. Explore Nature
Maybe hiking isn’t your thing.
You might live in the city and a genuine natural experience might be hours away. It doesn’t matter. You can still explore nature.
Find a patch of grass. Make sure it is clean, especially if you live in the city.
Then take your shoes off. Take your socks off. Step onto the grass.
How does the grass feel on your feet? What does the ground feel like?
This is just one way you can explore nature.
Grab a blanket and head out to the beach to watch the waves come in.
You can sit in the woods and just listen to the sounds around you. Smell the wet pine needles.
What you’re trying to do here is engage your senses.
When you can engage them, they offer you a powerful tool that can help you to relax and unwind.
Sometimes you can explore the environment around you in the same way.
Instead of listening to the sounds of nature, you can relax by listening to the sounds of the city.
Focus on one sound, like the HDD of your computer engaging or your water heater turning on.
In doing so, you will be finding the best way to relax your body through what already exists in the environments around you.
#12. Practice Visualization
It is difficult for the brain to distinguish between fantasy and reality.
This is why your dreams seem very real, even if the premise of the dream is ridiculously far-fetched.
It is also why practicing visualization can be a powerful way to relax the mind and body quickly and effectively.
It can work almost instantly. One simple visualization technique is to picture yourself in a favorite spot. Think of it as your “happy place.”
Be as specific with the details of this location as you can be.
Take note of the things, events, and scenes in the environment that are around you.
What sounds can be heard? What are other people doing in this environment? What are you going to be doing?
Then visualize yourself watching this environment or participating within it.
You can almost hear the sounds. You might be able to taste the salt on the wind if you’re by the ocean.
If the sun is shining, your face might even feel warm during your visualization exercise.
That is how powerful it can be.
Now visualize that you are taking the stressful triggers which are bothering you and you are pushing them away.
With every breath, you are removing the stressful feelings that are being experienced and replacing them with happiness, joy, or another positive emotion.
As long as you keep an open mind, visualization is a tool that can be used at any time for any length of time.
If you’ve already decided that visualization will not work, however, then that visualization will become part of your reality.
#13. Look for Insight
The root cause of stress is usually emotional.
There are certainly moments where a physical illness or injury may also cause stress, but more often than not, the actual cause of that stress is an emotional reaction to uncertainty.
If you break a leg, what will happen next? How much will it hurt? How long will physical therapy be? How much is this going to cost?
Because the roots of stress are firmly planted into our emotional wellbeing, one of the most effective ways to take control of it is to seek out personal insight.
When you can control the circumstances of life as it occurs around you, then it becomes easier to avoid the stressful triggers that can be so bothersome.
By reducing the problems of life that trigger stress, you reduce stress.
There will always be risks in life.
If you get married, then divorce is a possibility.
If you play sports, then an injury is a possibility.
We can’t prevent every negative circumstance from happening, but we can be proactive about our lives so that stress is kept to a minimum.
This is why couples work on a marriage regularly to prevent problems that could lead to a divorce.
Athletes will train regularly and often so their bodies can be resilient when the unexpected happens.
It is likely why you are reading this content right now. You’re looking to be proactive in the ways that you manage stress.
The easiest way to start this process is to begin identifying the things you can control.
This will create a second category: the things you cannot control.
If you have control over a specific circumstance, then you can take action to prevent the reactions to stress from being overwhelming.
If you do not have control over these circumstances, then you have the power to decide that you can let the stress go.
You always get to choose what the final outcome of a stressful trigger will be.
You can let the trigger become a powerful influence over your life or you can choose to ignore it and move on with your life.
Let it go. Move on. This will help you to relax your mind and body in a very effective manner.
Relax! Life is beautiful!
- David L. Wolper
Finding ways to relax your mind and body quickly and effectively can help you to avoid the signs and symptoms of stressful triggers and feelings.
Investing a few minutes into yourself whenever intense stress is around can make a real difference in your day.
You can choose one of these methods or choose several of them to implement today.
By giving yourself an opportunity to recognize stress and then manage it, you can take back control of your life.
What methods do you use to cope with stressful situations? Have you implemented any of the strategies that are listed above? What results have you been able to achieve?